Categories (all grades)


Author: Marilyn G. Smith, Jinks Middle School, Florida


Subject: Any


Objective: Decipher Message


Materials and Preparation: Make an overhead transparency with about 12 adjoining squares. If only one word is used in the game, no additional rows will be needed.


Black out the unused squares with strips of paper. If titles, phrases, sentences, et cetera, are used, the multiple lines of 12 adjoining squares should be used.


Across the bottom of the transparency, in an easy to read font, type the alphabet in large letters on two rows. When the puzzle does not fit well onto the transparency, simply use the chalkboard or draw lines (blanks) to represent each letter, skipping spaces, of course, between words.


You will need to cut some squares of paper to place over the squares between the words. Or, an easier way is to just black out the square. (As most teachers who make their own transparencies know, you will have to place the transparency UNDER the scrolling transparency so that the water doesn't damage the game transparency. It cannot be written on and erased if it is made on the computer.)


Student Grouping: 2 teams


The Play: The teacher gives a clue and writes it in the space between the lines of squares and the alphabet.

The clue can be anything from the definition (brief) of a WORD to a title or phrase or term students are learning or have learned. This is actually very much like the game show "Wheel of Fortune," except that there is no wheel to spin.


Scoring: There are two ways to score. The first is the simplest. The team that solves the word puzzle gets one point. The second way is to award a point each time a team guesses a correct letter. For example, if Team A guesses a consonant, they receive one point no matter how many of that particular letter there are. They may "buy a vowel" for a predetermined amount of points when they have acquired points for correct consonants. When a letter is guessed that does not appear in the puzzle, the other team is given a turn. The team that guesses the puzzle gets a set number of points (e.g., 5 points). In the second method of scoring, it is possible for a team that did not guess the puzzle, but did guess many correct letters, to come out with a higher score.


Examples: For Language Arts, authors, titles of short stories or books, lines of poetry, and vocabulary words are all good puzzles. Let's say one of the vocabulary words in a short story is "conflagration." The teacher might give only one word as a clue: Fire. After the puzzle is completed, the students will probably remember what conflagration means. The word "Conflagration" can become a clue after the students know what it means. The puzzle could be "The Great Chicago Fire," and the clue the teacher gives could be "a conflagration attributed to a cow."


For younger students, simpler themes can be used. Domestic animals is a good subject for young children. The clues can be sounds or phrases like, "This animal has a mane." Wild animals is another category. Fruits, vegetables, occupations, and so on are good puzzles for elementary students. The list is endless. Anything the class is studying, has studied, or will study would be suitable. It is also a great way to review.


Spelling can be enhanced as well. Students can see the letters and learn to pronounce the words more accurately. (Sometimes a word is mispronounced because students haven't seen it spelled and identified their pronunciation error.) For high school students, lines from Shakespeare could be used. The clue might be "Hamlet said it." Terms like "soliloquy," or "alliteration" could be defined as the clue.


Comments or Variations:Teams may make up their own puzzles and attempt to stump the other team in a Charades type form. The students on each team try to come up with a title or author (obscure clues can result if too many topics are allowed) to stump the other team. The team that is guessing gets to pick a specified number of consonants (e.g., eight) and a specified number of vowels (two or three). The chosen vowels and consonants are written in the appropriate squares, and the team must then collaborate and give ONE answer for the group. Scoring is simple. One point for each game.